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Task Force To Print Catalog Of Beetle-Kill Wood

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Lodgepole pines (credit: CBS)

Lodgepole pines (credit: CBS)

FRISCO, Colo. (AP) – Summit County’s Forest Health Task Force has long had the idea to bring blue-stained lodgepole pine products together into a catalog and brand it as a marketable building supply.

The trouble is, the idea has taken shape, but the funding has not.

With a goal of finding end uses for the millions of dead and dying trees in Colorado forests (estimated at more than 3 million acres affected by the pine beetle epidemic), Howard Hallman and the task force, a program of the Greenlands Reserve, have hatched the plan to create a user-friendly catalog of green, renewable products with architects, builders, developers and interior designers in mind.

The products would be locally and regionally produced products already being manufactured. Hallman’s proposal has an already established list of about 1,500 companies that use blue pine as well as a list of potential end users — some of whom are already using blue pine materials. Part of the sale of the product would be earmarked for forest regeneration.

To make it user-friendly, each manufacturer would issue specifications that include price, availability, quality and reliability of supply, so architects and the like can make use of it. And if it’s streamlined enough to save them time, it also saves money, making the “Colorado Blue Pine” name more marketable.

The name comes from a fungal stain left behind when a mountain pine beetle burrows into the trunk to lay its larvae. It is followed by the fungus, which generally is what kills the tree.

Sought-after wood? Don Sather, owner of Silverthorne’s Big Horn Hardware, Design and Materials, said he’s seen an increase in interest in the blue-stained wood even amid a construction decline in the last three to four years.

But when it comes down to it, cost is a crucial matter for clients — as are durability, availability and appearance.

“The industry is very competitive,” Sather said, “and marketing is an important part of it,” which is why he thinks a user-friendly catalog would be useful to promoting use of a local resource.

Matt Stais of Matthew Stais Architects in Breckenridge agreed.

“It would be great to have (the catalog) so I can better explain the possibilities to clients … early in the design phase.”

He said the current market for blue pine is “the exception rather than the rule.” It’s the environmentally conscious who seek to conserve resources elsewhere and lower their carbon footprint by using local materials.

“It’s on people’s radar,” Stais said. “They’re asking questions. They want to use it.”

Beyond broadening the local markets, Hallman also sees the chance to brand the wood as exotic. Why stop with marketing to Summit County, Colorado or even to the mountain West? While folks in the mountain West might opt for blue pine cabinetry for environmental reasons, it could become a sought-after wood in big cities as well as other countries.

Or so Hallman hopes.

“If we’re serious about selling beetle-killed pine, we need this sort of formal presentation,” he said about the catalog. “It’s just another pine at this point in time.”

He added that there’s an education component built into the project’s marketing aspect. Consumers, including homeowners, must not only have the product at their fingertips. They must also understand and be aware of why it’s useful, beautiful, and environmentally friendly, Hallman said.

“A lot of it is education,” Stais said. “Which is why it’s great they’re putting this thing together.”

There’s a somewhat short lifespan for the project to be economically viable — before procuring the wood becomes extremely expensive, if not impossible. Though millions of acres are affected, and about 98,000 trees are estimated to fall each day in Colorado forests, much of that timber is inaccessible. And given the rate at which it’s falling, there’s a time crunch to access and salvage as much of it as possible before it begins to decompose.

Hallman said sees the catalog as a way to overcome the traditional obstacles of making use of the Colorado pine. Keeping costs down and predictable in the face of transportation and shipping isn’t as difficult for higher-end products like those in the catalog.

So, Hallman and the task force members are hoping to get the project off the ground as soon as possible. With funding, it could be as early as three to six months from now.

It’s going to cost about $40,000 in initial costs and two years of support before they estimate that manufacturer and user subscription rates, general advertisers and other funding mechanisms become self-sufficient.

And so the to-do list largely centers around procuring funding, such as establishing partnerships that can lend a hand with finances as well as expertise in wood supply, manufacturing, certifications and marketing. Sponsorship support, finalizing subscription rates, identifying maximum publicity in a target audience other to-do items.

And, of course, building, testing and finding efficient ways to track and update the catalog must be done as well.

- By Janice Kurbjun, Summit Daily News

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

By Janice Kurbjun, Summit Daily News

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